Balancing royal duty with maternal devotion29 FEBRUARY 2012
Much has been written about the Queen as a mother, especially after she became the first British monarch to see three of her children divorce.
The truth is, she was very maternal, but was torn between royal duty and motherhood.
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In 1948, Elizabeth became a mother, aged 22, with the birth of her first child, Charles, who was followed by a sister, Anne, in 1950.
"Don't you think he is quite adorable?" she asked a friend of her first born. I still can't believe he is really mine."
Ten years after Anne's arrival came her second son, Andrew, in 1960, and Edward followed four years later.
The considerable age gap between her elder and younger children is often attributed to the fact that the monarch was so busy during her early years on the throne.
In 1954, she and Philip set off on a six-month tour of world and, after tucking up Charles and Anne in their beds the night before, the Queen burst into tears.
Leaving the youngsters for half a year was a great sacrifice, but, ever the professional, she revealed no glimmer of her private turmoil in public.
With time her schedule became more relaxed, and Prince Andrew recalled grewing up in an atmosphere of "wonderful fun".
It also left time for the royal mum to spend her evenings reading bedtime stories to Edward, the child courtiers referred to as "her baby".
But her elder children were in no doubt they were loved too, with Anne later praising the Queen as a "a marvellous mother".